Bridge funds get support from council
September 15, 2014
The Aspen City Council gave general support for helping fund the Grand Avenue Bridge replacement project in Glenwood Springs on Monday, though council members did not commit an exact dollar amount.
Colorado Department of Transportation officials requested that the city contribute $300,000 toward the estimated $110 million to $115 million project, which is running about $10 million to $15 million over budget, with the Colorado Bridge Enterprise Fund covering $99 million.
Though council members said they recognize Aspen's return value in helping replace the 60-year-old bridge, Councilman Adam Frisch asked that CDOT request funds from other municipalities in the Roaring Fork Valley that benefit, such as Snowmass Village. Councilman Dwayne Romero asked if it's possible for CDOT to reach out to multiple funding sources through the Elected Officials Transportation Committee, a board made of Aspen, Snowmass and Pitkin County officials.
Like Aspen leaders, the Pitkin County commissioners on Wednesday said they support the project but did not commit a dollar amount. Both the city of Glenwood Springs and Garfield County have committed as much as $3 million each, CDOT's Region 3 Transportation Director Dave Eller informed the council Monday. (See related story on A8.)
What began as a $59 million concept to replace the Grand Avenue Bridge has expanded in scope over time and now includes a pedestrian bridge. As drawn up, the main roadway bridge would run above Glenwood Springs' railway, the Colorado River and Interstate 70.
Though Mayor Steve Skadron said he can see the need to replace the bridge — which carries about 85 percent of all traffic into and out of the valley and has exceeded its design life by about 20 years — he said he had broader concerns, asking why the project has doubled in cost. His preference, he said, would be for CDOT to reconsider the $59 million plan.
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CDOT program engineer Joe Elsen defended the estimated $115 million plan, citing pedestrian improvement needs. He claimed that about 80 percent of tourists from the Front Range will park near the current bridge and walk across.
"So you're suggesting that the $59 million option, with a few more million dollars added to it, could not address the pedestrian issue?" Skadron asked.
Elsen also cited an estimated $2 million in accelerated bridge construction, which significantly cuts down on construction time. Additionally, he said an excess of $30 million in pre-construction costs have been adding up.
Frisch, who acknowledged the monetary and philosophical issues Skadron brought up, said, "Hey, listen, we're only 1 percent of your funding, so I guess you've got to figure out if it's worth your time talking to us. But as I tell people, if you come to government, be careful what you ask for."
Skadron answered that officials have a responsibility not to "simply rubber-stamp" requests.
Councilwoman Ann Mullins, who supported some form of contribution, said it is her hope that the bridge is constructed to improve safety and not to increase traffic into the valley, which Skadron agreed with. Councilman Art Daily said he doesn't have doubt that Aspen should contribute, but it's a question of how much.
CDOT officials are expected to explore funding options with the Elected Officials Transportation Committee on Oct. 16. Replacement of the bridge is expected to run between late 2015 and 2017.